May 3, 2008 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I noticed a well known food related domain name is available. What's the deal if I register it?

I don't mean to squat on the domain. I'm a huge fan of the product, and to see it's domain neglected breaks my heart. Could I make a tribute site? Could I put ads? Would I have to use it for something completely unrelated? What happens when the company who owns the brand notices? Can they just take it from me? Do things change if I also buy a popular way of misspelling the product name?

Some more details: I'm in Canada, but so is the corporation that makes the product in question, if that helps/hurts. I should also clarify that it's possible that the exact brand name is not the name of the domain, but the name and product are clearly featured in the domain.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
By all means, make a fan site. Put ads on it. Build it up nice. Profit.

If you get enough traffic, I am willing to bet that you could sell it to the company.
posted by peewinkle at 8:22 AM on May 3, 2008

It's hard to know without knowing the domain. If you registered, they probably wouldn't take kindly, whereas probably wouldn't land you in any hot water. Of course, it's probably a bad idea for multiple reasons to actually specify your domain.

An added wrinkle is that this is in Canada -- your neighbors to the south have a law preventing cybersquatting, but I don't know anything about Canadian Internet law.

You might want to read the ICANN rules: a very, very Cliff Notes version is that I believe the trademark owner will almost always prevail.
posted by fogster at 8:26 AM on May 3, 2008

Yeah, I would go ahead and register it. If you are saying good things about the bran in question the trademark owner probably won't care...
posted by prestor at 8:42 AM on May 3, 2008

Yes and please tell us what it is after you register it!
posted by saxamo at 9:11 AM on May 3, 2008

If they decide to go after you, they will most likely win. All they have to do is show prior use of the trademark, confusion with their mark, and so on.

So, you could register it, but you should be aware that they might ask you to take it down. And they may not be willing to pay you for it, since they own the trademark.

IANAL, but I used to handle intellectual property in marketing for software companies.
posted by acoutu at 9:14 AM on May 3, 2008

In my experience, the big company will probably just send you a nice legal letter demanding that you release it to them, as soon as they notice it exists. Which could take awhile, but still.

It doesn't matter how nice it is, or how much it helps their marketing. The lawyers won't care.

Okay, your mileage may vary. But I've seen it four or five times. The wild and wooly domain days in which you may have leverage, or the big company might pay for it are over, since now they all know the drill on how to get it from you for nothing.
posted by rokusan at 9:16 AM on May 3, 2008

In other words, I have seen the scene that acoutu describes play out many times.
posted by rokusan at 9:16 AM on May 3, 2008

2nding acoutu/rokusan: Many situations exist that would allow you to prevail at trial... but virtually nobody wants to pay for litigation to run a fan/hate site... but the owner of the trademark is certainly willing to sue/go into arbitration to get it from you.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:59 AM on May 3, 2008

The thing is that the company has to defend its trademark. It can't bend the rules, ever. They have to go to bat. Otherwise, they'll set a precedent and, before you know it, their brand will be generic. And brand trust is really important -- especially in a country like Canada, where it's so critical that we move away from our dependence on primary industries. By protecting trademarks, we enable value-added industries and green the planet. Sorta.
posted by acoutu at 10:03 AM on May 3, 2008

As toomuchpete said, the big boys don't mind going to court. On the other hand, there have been plenty of cases of this type where they use the same money to just buy the domain from you (without all the bad publicity). So - who knows? It depends on the character and culture of the company involved. There's probably no 'right' answer.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 11:04 AM on May 3, 2008

acoutu, that's not exactly true. They could just as easily let the poster know its their trademark, but they are graciously granting him a revokable license to use it. (IAAL, but IANA trademark L)
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 12:11 PM on May 3, 2008

If it's a .ca domain, it can very easily be taken away by CIRA as soon as the company asks them to.
posted by dobbs at 2:20 PM on May 3, 2008

Ah, you're probably right, Kingjoeschmoe. But they'd probably have to write that up, not ignore it. I think.
posted by acoutu at 9:40 PM on May 3, 2008

To further clarify: there has to be an infringing use of the trademark before the mark holder has to take some sort of action. Not every use of the mark needs to be litigated/licensed.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:43 AM on May 4, 2008

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